April 15, 2017

Sapta Risheeshwarar Temple - Lalgudi

Site Name: Sapta Risheeshwarar temple
Site Type: Hindu temple
Location:  Lalgudi, near Trichy, Tamil Nadu state, India
Highlights: An ancient and important temple of Lord Shiva
Nearest Railway Station: Lalgudi
Nearest Airport: Trichy
How to reach: Well connected by road from Trichy
Hotel: Mid-range hotels in Lalgudi; for better options, go to Trichy 
Restaurants: Few mid-range restaurants in Lalgudi

Lalgudi is a town located at a distance of around 20 kms from Trichy city in Tamil Nadu state of India. In the olden days, the town was called as Tirutavathurai. In this town, an ancient and important temple of Lord Shiva, called as Sapta Risheeshwarar, is located. Let us explore this temple in this article. 


Highlights:


  • God Sapta Risheeshwarar 
  • Goddess Sreemati or Sivakama Sundari or Perunthirup Piraattiyar
  • Sthala Vruksha (Holy tree) - Peepul
  • Refered in Anbil copper plates.
  • Sri Tyagaraja Swamigal composed Pancha Ratna Mala on the Goddess of this temple.

Legend:

Sapta Rishis:

The Devas, who were subdued by the Asuras, wanted Lord Shiva to give birth to a son, who alone could terminate the evil forces under the leadership of Tarakasura. With the help of Kama Deva, they disturbed the penance of Shiva. Shiva produced six sparks, which resulted in the birth of Kartikeya, with six heads. The wives of the seven great sages (Sapta Rishis) were assigned the duty of feeding the divine child. 

Arundhati, the wife of the sage Vashishtha, did not want to feed Kartikeya. Hence, the Rishi Patnis assigned their task to Kritika girls. Hence, the seven sages got furious and they cursed their respective wives. Kartikeya did not like the act of the sages. Hence, he cursed them. To get rid of their curse, the sages went to Tiruvaiyaru. Then, they came down to Lalgudi and worshiped Lord Shiva. They got rid of their problems in this site. Shiva absorbed them by splitting the top portion of Linga. Hence, Shiva in this site, is called as Sapta Risheeshwarar.

Birth place of Amman:

The Goddess of the temple is Sivakama Sundari, who is also called as Sreemati. It is believed that she was born to Mangalya Rishi in this town.

Vishnu and Lakshmi:

Lakshmi did penance towards Shiva and got his darshan in this site. Hence, this place was originally called as "Tiru Tava Thurai". (The word "Tiru" represents Lakshmi).

Vishnu, who had lost his discus, got back the same with the blessing of Lord Shiva in this site.

Malik Kafur:

 It is said that Malik Kafur, during his invasion of South India, visited this town. The temple tower was painted in red color. He apparently asked his generals what was this Lal Gudi, meaning the red temple. Due to this, the town is called as Lalgudi. 




History:

The current structure of the temple belongs to the Chola period. The stone inscriptions of Parantaka Chola I's period (10th century CE) are found in the temple. It appears that two Pallava period inscriptions were copied by Parantaka. Hence, we can assume that the original temple must be much older and Parantaka might have rebuilt the temple.


Anbil copper plates have reference about this temple.

The palm leaves containing Devaram hymns were found in a room near the sanctum.

It is believed that Sambandhar would have sung about this temple. But, the relevant Devaram song is not found. Hence, it is not considered as Paadal Petra Sthalam and not even as a Vaippu Sthalam. 

Sri Tyagaraja Swamigal visited this site. He composed five songs, collectively known as Lalgudi Pancha Ratna Kritis on the Goddess of this temple. 


Temple Layout:

Entrance:

The west  facing entrance of the temple has a four tiered tower and a long mandap in the front side. The ceiling of the mandap blocks the sight of the tower.

In the inner side of the tower, the idols of Ganesh and Surya are located.

Sapta Risheeshwarar:

The west facing sanctum with a beautiful enshrines the big Shiv Linga. Shiv Linga is named as Sapta Risheeshwarar. He is self manifested (swayambhu) Linga. There is a vertical red split on the top of Linga.

Nandi in the Maha Mandap and another Nandi in the outside courtyard face the sanctum. In the courtyard, the flag staff and bali peetha are located.

The Dwarapalas images are very beautiful.

Sreemati:

The Goddess of the temple is called as Sreemati. She is found in a separate east facing shrine, which is located in the outer prakara area. A long front-side mandap is also there. In this temple, Nandi (and not lion) faces the Goddess.

Unique Murtis:

In Maha Mandap area, some unusal Murtis are found. On the true right side, the idols of Vishnu and Krishna are found. The idols of Vishwaksena and Sapta Rishis (the seven great sages) are found on the other side. 

Probably, the legend of Vishnu getting back his discus from Shiva, has something to do with these Vaishnava Murtis in this temple.

Having Sapta Rishis is not a surprise, as Shiva is called as the Lord of Sapta Rishis in this temple.

Koshta Murtis:

The Koshta Murtis that are found on the outer walls of the sanctum are also unique. Bhikshatana, Ardha Nareeswara and Veenadhara Dakshinamurti (in the standing posture) are found as the Koshta (niche) deities. All these Murtis look extremely attractive.

Other Idols:

In the prakara, there are many idols located. Some of them are not usually found in the other Shiva temples.


  • Sapta Matas
  • Sapta Ganapatis (seven Murtis of Ganesh)
  • Few Shiv Lingas
  • 63 Nayanmars
  • Nalvar
  • Few sages
  • Bhairav
  • Navagraha (all eight planets face towards Surya in the middle)
  • Garud
  • Mangalya Rishi (father of the Goddess)
Other Sub-shrines:

In the first prakara, there are many sub-shrines located, such as:


  • Small Utsav Murtis of Nataraja and Shivakami
  • Big idol of Saraswati, which faces the sanctum
  • Dakshinamurti
  • Chandikeshwara
  • Big stucco idol of Gaja Lakshmi
  • Durga
  • Ganesh
  • Subramanya-Valli-Devasena
Similar to the Vimana of the sanctum, the Vimanas of the other sub-shrines are also very attractive. 

Happy travelling.


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